Want the Truth about RAW Artists?
Great, you’re in the right place! Welcome to our facts page. This is a breakdown of factual information you might find helpful as you learn more about RAW Artists. This is also an opportunity to address some of the disinformation you may have come across in regard to our organization.
Some History on RAW Artists
RAW Artists has been in business since 2009. It was started in Los Angeles by me, Heidi Luerra the Founder & CEO of RAW Artists for the past (almost) 14 years. I started RAW at age 24 from my kitchen table. After struggling to market myself as a fashion designer, I wanted to create an approachable platform for artists to be seen and heard both online and offline. You can learn more about RAW’s origin story and development timeline on our team page.
How RAW Artists is Funded
RAW has never had any investors or corporate sponsors. I decided early on that as an organization we would remain independently funded by artists, for artists.
In order to accomplish this in a meaningful way, RAW Artists used (and still uses) the method of crowdfunding. I have always believed we’re stronger together than we are apart, and that joining forces to showcase together would create more exposure, opportunities, connections, and commerce for every participating creative. Spoiler alert: I was right! For over a decade artists have sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of artwork, accessories, and fashion at our showcases (we’ve taken 0% commission on those sales). In addition, in 2019 alone we paid artists over $200k through our promotions program.
Our artists have gained new fans and followers, built successful collaborations, made countless new connections and friendships, and even met or married their significant others through the catalyst of our showcases.
Our mission has always been to provide artists and creative entrepreneurs with tools, resources, exposure, and education. We’ve always done this through an extensive value package for our artists. The showcase event is just one aspect of the value a RAW artist receives by participating with us. You can learn more about what’s provided here on our Why Submit page.
There is a small minority of individuals that don’t necessarily like that we ask every participating artist to contribute to the promotion of each showcase through crowdfunding tickets. These individuals are entitled to their opinion. They are also welcome to simply not participate.
I think it’s important to note that for almost 14 years, this exchange has been agreeable to over 200k artists in 70 cities around the world. You can read reviews directly from RAW artists on our testimonials page. You can also view some of the extraordinary alumni that have gotten their start with RAW artists with our alumni page.
The Largest Independent Arts Organization in the World
As the largest arts organization in the world, we are bound to be scrutinized. We set out to be different on purpose. Being an alternative space, it comes with the territory. We were never trying to be a white wall gallery gatekept by a select few, or a multi-thousand dollar price tag fashion week, or a small stage where you’ll only play to the same seven people in the audience. We’ve worked very hard for over a decade to disrupt the old way of doing things. People don’t always like change. Some seek to “cut down the tallest poppy”. We’ve come to accept this fact.
As someone reading about our organization or contemplating whether or not to showcase with us I would encourage you to consider the source of the information you’re reading from (and perhaps the date of that information). What you might come to find is that those that have chosen to spread a negative narrative about RAW have never participated, nor have they attended a showcase. I personally feel it’s difficult to review anything from that vantage point.
You might also ask what their personal motivation might be. Because we have been a long-standing brand with an expansive web presence, people often like to boost their own pages, blogs, and channels by mentioning the RAW Artists name. This gets them more eyeballs than they might receive on their own. You also might find that this clickbait leads you to them selling you their products or services or invites you to donate to them personally.
I might also encourage you to ask these individuals what they are doing to build up the independent art world. Are they contributing something positive to uplift their own creative community? Are they putting focused energy on only tearing things down? Or do they have a more suitable opportunity they can provide or point you to? Perhaps they’ve been successful in their own careers doing things differently and they can share that advice with you. These are questions I might ask them directly (rather than publicly).
We’re Not Perfect
We’re not perfect. We built this community from absolutely nothing with no one paving the way before us. There were no books to read on how to build a sustainable independent arts community with an altruistic mission. It has not been easy to find the right combination of money and mission. We have surely made mistakes and learned tough lessons as we’ve grown. All pioneers face the hardship of spending a lot of time, money, and resources trialing things and learning what not to do before things can refine.
We have done our absolute best to address any negative experience an actual RAW artist may have had while showcasing with us, and remedy it in any way that we can. It’s only fair to assume that after thousands of showcases we’ve made mistakes, we have surely screwed up or made the wrong decisions from time to time. However, our intentions have never wavered. We’ve always been here to help, not to harm.
A New Chapter
In March 2020 RAW Artists was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We took the time during the shutdown to reimagine how we could continue our mission after two very difficult years for the arts and live events in general.
In the Fall of 2021, we re-emerged as a new iteration of our former selves. Our showcases are now run by independent creative entrepreneurs across the globe under our PLATFORM by RAW Artists™ licensing program. As such, each individual gets to choose how they want to showcase artists in their community, the value package they provide artists, and their requirements for artists to participate. Crowdfunding is still prominent at our showcases because we believe it’s the best way to stay self-funded. Every showcase location is different and each licensee gets to produce showcases according to their own vision. If you’re interested in this opportunity and want to produce arts showcases in your community (U.S only) please visit RAWartists.com/platform
Terms and Conditions
In addition, some have brought up concerns about the language in our terms and conditions. To address that specifically, RAW has not and will never reproduce, use or sell your work without permission. Our terms and conditions clause reads as such because we create promotional materials, host pictures of artists' work on our website, and sometimes feature screenshots of our website in marketing materials, etc. this is a common condition on most modern websites. If you check out the T&C’s on YouTube, Instagram, or Meetup.com you’ll see these exact same terms. These terms are not unique to RAW Artists, Inc.
To Showcase, or Not Showcase?
I created RAW Artists as a place where independent creatives could have a platform to be seen, heard, celebrated, and create commerce for themselves. There has never been a better time in history to be an independent artist. You have so many options to put yourself out in the world, more than any generation before! I believe creative entrepreneurs can build a sustainable lifestyle doing what they are absolutely most passionate about, but one cannot do this without risks, hard work, self-promotion, and sacrifice. There is no single opportunity that is going to skyrocket your status overnight. In addition, sitting idle waiting to be discovered is unlikely. You have to decide for yourself what opportunities are best for you.
If what you are currently doing with your creative output is working for you– great, keep doing it! If you are where you want to be, stay the course. But, if you want to get outside of your comfort zone and sharpen your business skills, meet other creatives in your community, learn, grow, and perhaps make some new fans, followers, and/or sales, maybe consider giving RAW a go. And if you do, fully commit to it! I implore you to squeeze the opportunity for all that it’s worth. You get out of it what you put in with no exception. It will be worth it!
I wish you only the best of luck in your creative journey whether it leads you to participate with us or not. I believe that creativity can change the world and that creative entrepreneurs make the world a better and more vibrant place to be. So, either way, thank you for creating!
Creativity & Justice for All,
Founder & CEO